Thank You, Lala Yusifova!

Today I watched a routine that made me live a story, experience new emotions and become part of a spiritually enriching experience. This masterfully choreographed and superbly performed routine comes to us from the young Lala Yusifova and her coach Mariana Vassileva. Credit goes to both for being very daring, and for creating a piece of art while also putting a lot of very risky and difficult gymnastics elements.

The new Code of Points demands that gymnasts include dance steps and supposedly encourages creativity and musicality. Not all the new routines reflect this kind a character to life through your dance steps. Actually, very few of the routines have managed to approach this level of sophistication.

I am not surprised, though. Lala looked extremely promising as a junior, when I wrote about her here in Bulgarian and I called her "the exquisite flower from Baku." Her first steps on the carpet as a senior made our hearts flutter, too, as I wrote, this time in English, here.

So, thank you, Lala. I was crying watching the routine. Somewhere else Charlie Chaplin must have smiled.


My Top 4 Routines in 2013

Now that the first two strong tournaments of the year, one in Estonia and one in Moscow, have finished, I can say I watched the new routines of most of the world's best gymnasts. I have made my picks as follows

1. Top Ball Routine: Margarita Mamun. This is a lyrical, brilliant, light-as-a-feather routine, in which I think Rita Mamun displays some of the best arm movements in the business of dance and gymnastics. We see risk and we also see expression:

2. Top Clubs Routine: Alexandra Merkulova. This is one of the few routines with a vocal and with words that I actually enjoy. Sasha Merkulova takes the credit for looking like she is having tons, tons of fun performing and not like she is pretending to dance. I really feel sad when so many gymnast just move their hips around because now you have to include "dance elements" and they are not feeling the music, or the mood, or anything at all. Joyful dancing aside, this is a routine full of small movements and tricks with the clubs, which is what every routine should be. None of the elements look static and a few are pretty original. The routine covers the entire carpet and matches the music:

3. Top Ribbon Routine: Melitina Staniouta. A classy and classical routine beyond any doubt. As we know, all of Melitina's leaps and pivots are some of the strongest in the world and she has put a lot of effort into interpreting the music and making this routine very "alive" and fluid. Melitina Staniouta is, physically, the best gymnast in the world right now. If her expression matches her physical fitness, she should be winning gold after gold. But mostly with this wonderfully sophisticated ribbon:

4. Top Hoop Routine: Ganna Rizatdinova. Ukranian gymnasts completely "own" the hoop as an apparatus. Maksymenko has presented a strong hoop routine as well but Ganna's pirouettes and her dramatic, yet, not drama queen-ish interpertation has put it over the top of me. She is truly flying high like her hoop here, taking over all the emotional space she can: